The man I wanted to be by Kevin Murphy

The man I wanted to be

Seamus Rooney had the most pluck of any man I ever met. ‘No Bog-trotter like my father’, he swore. He had come over to rebuild England after the war. He brought his Monica gold, but the man that was left after the thousand-ton presses bashed bonnets and boots out of his brain in the flashing dark of the Cowley car plant was not the same man she had married.

They came from emerald country to dim factory; we from dark satanic mills to the city of gleaming spires.

They joined us in the poorest area of North Oxford in forty seven, him seeking more light in Lucy’s Iron foundry; me driving a tax officer’s desk.

He would try anything; change frightened me.

Lucy’s was still hot and noisy – airless. He needed out: one Sunday I stood guard while he circumnavigated a bulldozer. He whistled me; I peeped the all clear. The dozer sparked up and crashed into gear: the behemoth ground forward, crawlers crunched a turn; blade up, blade down; deafening silence; blood roaring in my ears; Seamus by my side; finger to nose, not a word.

On the Monday he told the ganger that he needed a dozer driver – a good one who didn’t ruin his machine. He got the job and the driver got a shovel.

Shorter and younger than me, Seamus was a man I always looked up to. I needed a pal like Seamus to goad me into doing what I really wanted to do, but never dared. Edith was my rock but if ever I needed to strike out for the stars…

Seamus’s biggest wheeze was Christmas forty eight. With rationing still on, we couldn’t afford a turkey if there was one to be had. Christmas Eve, pub turn out time, ears deaf to his ruse. “We’ll have a swan, Paddy!” All was quiet over Port Meadow, where but for the drumming in my chest, I was to stand on one side of the Thames and beat the swans onto his shotgun. Out with my torch, waving and shooing, the swans gathered round the fool throwing the bread. In panic at the empty river before him, Seamus shouted “I’m gonna shoot, Paddy!” letting go both barrels.

He raced back over the Bailey bridge and splashed, chuckled and squashed our mighty swag into the bag. We didn’t sneak back home: “Hol’ your head up Paddy, sure we’re Santa and his elf out on our rounds.”

I told you he had pluck – so did Monica and Edith: Monica to pluck the swan and Edith to pluck stray pellets from my arse. It was our best fed Christmas of the post war decade. We had a laugh, a story and a feast: two feasts really. All plucked and stuffed the swan would fit in neither of our ovens. Seamus cut it in half with an old saw he ‘borrowed’.

Only five years later, a Christmas card from Ireland told of his great success with a Turkey farm.

[A memoir of parents’ early years of marriage]


A line of rhyme by Michael Healy

A line of rhyme by Michael Healy

Not often do I have the time

To sit and read a line of rhyme

The Poet’s thoughts now put to paper,

To enjoy the feel, the flow and savour,

Each word linked carefully with the next

Combined with care to form the text

That paints its picture in the mind

And lets the stress of life unwind

That lifts the soul and gladdens the heart;

The poet’s gift has played its part.

Michael Healy

OLD NED AND FLO by Pete Brammer

OLD NED AND FLO by Pete Brammer

When thinking back, I often relate,

To an aging old couple, that passed by our gate,

Around Worksop town, they’d both come and go,

And went by the names, of ‘Old Ned and Flo’.


Ned, he was born of quite noble birth,

But is there a price on what that is worth?

For as he grew older, he had everything made,

But fell in love, with a pretty young maid.


His ma and pa were both quite aghast,

Hoping and praying their love wouldn’t last,

Yet try as they may, he just wouldn’t hear,

So when they were wed, he was out on his ear.


A home with refinement meant nothing at all,

To this king and queen, who’d answered the call,

A call from the wild, and the wide open spaces,

To shake off the shackles, and throw off the tracers.


A freedom to wander, a freedom to roam,

No longer in future, would they need a home,

For no one was happier, than Flo with her Ned,

With devotion unmatched, from that day they were wed.


In turn each would push, a run-down old pram,

For the comforts of life, they gave not a damn,

Their worldly possessions, were on those four wheels,

And yet they were happy, though down at the heels.


Flo broke her leg, in a fall or such,

So Ned bless his heart, would push his old dutch,

Mile after mile, around country lanes,

The smile on her face, repaid all his pains.


He noted these things, as he toiled in his labours,

For these little moments, were relished and savoured.

As kids we would taunt, and Ned would give chase,

But always made sure, that we won the race.


No malice or grudge, he ever did bare,

For God knows he took, much more than his share,

Now that I’m older, and know I was cruel,

I’d like to say sorry, for playing the fool.


T’was a sad day for Flo, when Ned passed away,

She had no one close, and nowhere to stay,

After choosing the life, of an outdoor pursuit,

It seemed that she now, had to finally take root.


But where could she go, In clothes ragged that smell?

For this was the problem, they knew only too well,

Kindness prevailed at the King Edward Hotel,

They did her up nicely, and treated her well,


Little pink ribbons tied up her white hair.

And she looked like a lady, whilst in their care,

But she never got over, Ned’s passing away,

And thought of him constantly, day after day.


Flo died soon after, they say that she pined,

But left us some wonderful memories behind,

If you’re up there Ned, with Flo looking down,

I most deeply regret, my acting the clown.

Ned and Flo News cutting

So when the time comes, and my life’s at an end,

I hope you’ll both meet me, and say. “Welcome my friend”.


By Peter D. Brammer (The Shireoaks Bard)